Statewide day of action for educational equity in California’s public schools

by Oakland teacher Taiwo Kujichagulia-Seitu

“Mrs. Seitu, how come they’re no music classes here?”

The student asking me this question had just transferred to our school the previous week. He had access to music classes at his previous middle school in Las Vegas.

“Oh, Sweetie, there hasn’t been music at the middle school level since I was in sixth grade almost 30 years ago. You have to be in elementary or some charter schools to have music classes.”

That’s just shameful. In a state in which arts, media and entertainment is the fastest growing career pathway, most public schools do not have access to performing arts instruction. I mean, California’s only the home of Hollywood and a thriving entertainment industry. No biggie. I guess students who want a competitive edge just have to be educated in public schools outside of California to get entertainment related jobs inside California. That makes total sense.

Anywho, to catch you up from the last article I wrote, the Oakland teacher strike ended and teachers are back at work. A new contract is in place, but my daily teaching life has not changed.

While I would love students to have access to music classes, the reality is that even with the new contract in place, Oakland Unified School District will still have a huge shortage of school nurses and too few counselors. And while it is true that OUSD has faced years of financial mismanagement, it is also true that districts throughout California are severely underfunded by the state.

So, just as teachers in Los Angeles, Sacramento and Oakland are holding their local school districts accountable, we are also holding the state of California accountable for the lack of resources in our public schools.

The fact of the matter is that change has never occurred in this country because it was the right or moral thing to do. Change has always been the result of a demand for change made by the masses.

California has the fifth largest economy in the world. You read that right; the world. Yet we rank 44th in the United States in per pupil spending. That is utterly shameful. There are countries, with fewer resources than California, that send their students to college free of charge, yet many California public schools are lacking textbooks.

Come on California. Be like Avis and “try harder” or like Nike and “just do it.” Do try harder to ensure that your youngest citizens can actually be competitive as high school and college graduates. The resources are available. The support from Californians across the state is plentiful. The desire to change the status quo by those who create the status quo, however, is non-existent.

Cool, cool. It’s all good because the fact of the matter is that change has never occurred in this country because it was the right or moral thing to do. No, change has always been the result of a demand for change made by the masses.

Thus here enter our heroes of the hour: under-resourced students, frustrated parents and underpaid, overworked teachers. On Wednesday, May 22, this extremely diverse group from all walks of life, united solely by a severe lack of resources in one of the wealthiest places on earth, will travel to Sacramento to demand change.

May 22 is a statewide day of action calling on the California state legislature to fully fund its public schools. In Sacramento, teachers, students and families will spend the day lobbying and gathering in and around the capitol to demand change. Solidarity actions will also take place throughout the state in numerous schools and public spaces. If you stand in solidarity with us, but cannot attend any of the actions, please sign my petition at http://chng.it/wwPR6mwBGn to support our publicly educated future leaders.

To keep up to date with news regarding the statewide action, follow California Educators Rising and the Oakland Education Association on Facebook @CAEducatorsRising and @OaklandEA.

As always, I will continue to update you all along the journey that is teaching and parenting children in California’s public schools. To quote Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, “Forward ever, backwards never!”

Contact Oakland teacher Taiwo Kujichagulia-Seitu at taiwoseitu@gmail.com.